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Violence in Children and Adolescents

by Stephen Brian Sulkes, MD

Many children and adolescents occasionally have physical confrontations with others, but most children and adolescents do not continue violent behavior or engage in violent crime. However, children who become violent before puberty may be at higher risk of committing crimes.

There is little evidence that violent behavior is caused by genetic defects or chromosomal abnormalities. Known risk factors for violence include the following:

  • Intense corporal punishment (such as punching or beating) inflicted on the child

  • Alcohol and drug abuse by caregivers of the child

  • Gang involvement

  • Developmental issues

  • Poverty

  • Access to firearms

Violent video games and media desensitize children to violence. Although experts do not think they actually cause children to become violent, children exposed to them are more used to violence being part of life.